Posts Tagged ‘Lyric Opera’

Audition Daily Blog 04

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

18 November 2015

Goals tonight

  • play each excerpt, plus the required solo, at least once
  • try out “interleaved” technique described on Bulletproof Musician
  • don’t stay up late
  • get some laundry started
  • help set up daughter’s new phone

Okay, I typed up those goals before I started practicing (I’m cheating, this will be like oh maybe seven or eight minutes’ worth of writing in total, *gasp*). Who wants to guess what happened?

That’s right, dammit, setting up the phone took WAY too much time. Android. Ick. Although I have decided that my theory about phone operating systems is the same as my theory about Austin Powers movies: whichever one you see first is the one you love, and the others all seem derivative and borderline terrible.

So, since we’re definitely here to keep score:

Play each excerpt: actually accomplished, but at a bare minimum for several

Use the “interleaved” practice schedule: did not do, except by virtue of not working on any one excerpt for more than five minutes or so.

Don’t stay up late: yet to be seen, but it is now 10:23, and once I wrap up this post, off to bed, and all in all that’s not terrible.

Get some laundry started: don’t make me laugh.

Phone: we talked about that already. A grudging victory: I helped, but it cost me.

Bottom line is, tonight actually didn’t suck as a practice session. It could have been much worse, and really given the whole phone thing, it came out okay.

I’m feeling borderline positive. I really do think I’ll do better on the 29th than I did at the CSO audition. There are going to be talented players at this audition, so I am not betting my mortgage on winning, but I know I’ll do better than … okay, enough on that already. Grudge match between me and J.S.B. is on!

I love playing music. Forcing myself to follow through on this audition is bringing back so many skills, I’m really happy about it. Winning the job would be just awesome. So is being able to play at my best, wherever I play.

Time’s up. Good night.

next morning edit: bad news. After publishing this post, I stayed up really late working on the phone. But I was successful. So . . .


Audition Daily Blog 03

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

…in which I quote a tweet by Jeff Gothelf

17 November 2015

It’s just about 9:45 and I’ve finished practicing for the night. I started at about 6 pm when I got home, had a 45-minute break for dinner with the family and now I’m done.

I got through every excerpt and the required solo piece with the following formula (more or less):

  1. play the excerpt note-by-note, watching the electronic tuner for intonation (as well as listening with my ears!), and retrying any shifts that were particularly out-of-tune.
  2. consult my notes from yesterday, and play the excerpt at least once at the same finishing tempo or slightly slower than yesterday.
  3. If all went well in (2), notch the tempo up a beat per minute or maybe two and play it again.
  4. as needed, re-study things that didn’t go well.
  5. repeat 1-4 for all 23 excerpts and the solo piece.

The solo was what really fouled me up at the CSO sub list audition. Look, I’ve been working in a very semi-pro capacity for a lot of years now. I don’t get paid for playing solo pieces, let alone playing solo Bach. They’re pieces written for the cello, an instrument with a much shorter string length and tuned differently. They can be damned hard to play on bass, no matter what Edgar Meyer might make you think. So when it comes time to work on the Bourrees from the third suite, I just plain get frustrated. This animosity I have is getting better, but it is hard to deal with.

Okay, five minutes is up. That went fast. I was gonna totally get into my emotional state, but I guess I won’t.

I promised I would quote a tweet. @jboogie wrote it about writing a book, but I think it’s just perfectly applicable:

Audition Daily Blog 02

Monday, November 16th, 2015

16 November 2015

Finished going through everything on the excerpt list approximately one time. This is after a full working day at my day gig. And taking a pause in the middle of it all to pick up my daughter from choir. So even though little progress was made, I am satisfied. Not super-pumped, but at least I have no reason to be down on myself tonight.

It’s not nearly the high that yesterday was. There are some obvious flaws in my playing these passages. I worry of course that they won’t be resolved in time for the audition. What can I do but just keep working? There’s no miracle formula.

Andy Anderson said something good to me in an email today: “treat these excerpts just like you would a solo piece.” So that’s a cool piece of advice–it takes away the pressure to be “right” about how to play them in an orchestra. Haha, but in a subtle way it makes the pressure worse: now I can’t just say “I did it like the paper said.” I have to really think it through and have an opinion, at least for myself.

I can’t really describe how many different kinds of pressure an audition puts on you. Maybe you’re starting to notice. Near flawless and perfectly repeatable technique. Confidence. Deep knowledge. Enthusiasm.

And finding the time to put that all together. As you gather, since I’m only allowing myself five minutes to blog … and how to practice Wagner (full tilt screaming valkyries!) after the rest of the family has gone to bed? I regret the hours I did NOT spend in the practice room when I was an undergraduate, and again as a graduate student. Oh sure, I am the person who I am and I am where I am–and those are both pretty good things–because of the choices I made then, but sometimes I really wish I had chose differently.


That became kind of stream of consciousness, didn’t it? And confessional, in a slight way.

13 days (less) to the audition.

Audition Daily Blog 01

Sunday, November 15th, 2015


My audition date for the Lyric Opera orchestra is coming up in 14 days. I’m going to share some thoughts – five minutes at a time. I have a lot of practicing to do, so five minutes a day is all I want to spare. Background: the upcoming audition is for a regular spot in the orchestra of the Lyric Opera of Chicago. It’s one of the best opera organizations in the world, and it would be a plum of a gig for any musician. I have only a few days left to prepare.

So each of those next days, I’m going to use this blog platform to share some of what I’m putting myself through. Today is two installments: this five minutes of context, and five minutes of “what I’m feeling today.” That will be my rule: five minutes. Minimal editing. Off it goes into the aether.

(I’ve got almost two minutes left…) I’d love to get this gig, but I’m realistic: after I absolutely wiped out in last weekend’s substitute list audition for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, I will be relieved to just get past the required solo piece in the Lyric audition. But wow, winning this spot … I could actually play music for a living. I long for such a life.

That’s my first five minutes for today. Back to practicing, with another five minutes blogging to follow below.

2015 November 15

Okay, it’s the end of the day (8:30 pm). I didn’t keep track of how many hours I spent today, but it really was the better part of the day. I believe that I played nearly every one of the 23 excerpts twice today. And when I say “played” I actually mean played, worked on and played again. Really, it feels like a good day of work.

I had a coaching a few weeks ago with Michael Hovnanian, and he said something to the effect of “don’t waste your time panicking now, there will be plenty of time for that right before you go on stage for your audition.” I LOVE that idea, and today is a day when it’s comfortable to feel that. I did get some stuff DONE today. It’s not always that way.

(I’m about halfway through my 5 minutes.)

Today I did manage to start something that I should have been doing all along: keeping track of my ‘current best’ tempo for each of the excerpts. Tracking that will allow me to be more deliberate about my preparation. Should’ve been doing it all along. And from now, also something I should have been doing all along, always a metronome as I go through excerpts. As you might expect where there are tricky passages, inconsistent tempo is troubling me throughout.

I thought that I would be writing something more philosophical right now, but I guess I’m on enough of a practice high that I just feel good. So that’s my five minute blog for tonight.